Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chichen Itza, Playa del Carmen, Ukumal and Tulum

Chichen Izta

On the way to Playa del Carmen I went to the Chichen Itza (not Chicken Itza) ruins. These were really good and it is quite a large city so there is a lot to see. However, unlike Uxmal, you can’t walk on any of them and there are way more people since it’s a new seven world wonder. 

You get the idea.

One thing I didn’t like (compared to Ruta Puuc) is that it is overly touristy and there are people selling souvenirs everywhere. It definitely took something away from the appeal of the place. 

Still, I went and I’m glad about that. It's impressive.

Here's a handy tip for travellers. You can take your stuff with you to Chichen Itza, leave it in left luggage for free at the entrance, then jump on a bus to somewhere else in the afternoon. 

I went back to the beach.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is south of Cancun on the Caribbean coast. Everyone told me to go there cos apparently it's really good.

It was alright. 

The town itself is pretty much just bars, restaurants and a beach.

Hmm... I'm not sure why you would need to do a drinking course. It's basically just a sip and repeat thing until you pass out/ get arrested/ end up in hospital.

I should have seen this as a sign of things to come.

It turns out Playa del Carmen is a mecca for of drunk 19 year olds, which is fine if you're 19 or pretending you are.

On my first night I was woken up at 6am to a guy pissing on my stuff. Of course he was still completely wasted and therefore denied it when I woke the room up screaming and turning the light on. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with men? Why do they do this? I've heard so many stories of drunk men waking up and pissing in wardrobes or wherever. You never hear of a passed out woman waking up and squatting in corner of the room though. Urgh. Men. Your kind is fucking gross.

Anyway. The hostel staff were really good. And they made him pay to wash all my clothes and the mattress, which he'd also managed to piss on. I bet they're glad they took a deposit off everyone at check in. Not sure if he got kicked out since I moved hostels at about 8am. I moved to a girl's only room.

I hoped the second hostel would be better, and while my two roommates were fine, the other rooms were full of drunk 19 year old American girls. They all said 'like' as every second word, making them sound stupid. But then they'd turn around and speak perfect Spanish so clearly they weren't. Damn you America for the overuse of 'like' and dumbing down the English language!

Anyway, the next morning I get up and start walking towards the girl's bathrooms and then there is an overwhelming smell of vomit. Basically, one of more of these girls had managed to miss every single toilet bowl and cover the outside of all the toilets and floor in vomit. I felt very sorry for the cleaners.

Thankfully for there were more toilets downstairs. However, even after the vomit had been removed the smell still lingered.

I'm not sure what these guys are doing. 

They climbed up and then I thought they were going to do something amazing, but they just kind of sat up there for 10 minutes and did nothing. When some guy started coming around collecting money I left. Climbing up a pole and sitting doesn't seem that hard or that worthy of my money.

The one redeeming feature of Playa del Carmen (since this yoga place wasn't opening until November) was the food.

La Senda Restaurante is an awesome raw and vegan restaurant is located in the main touristy area. I ate here everyday and I befriended the owner since she is so lovely and she kept feeding me delicious meals. It was all yum. Go there if you're in Playa.

There is also an awesome food market called DAC in Playa were you can stock up on all things veggie. I even saw agar agar here, which I've never seen anywhere in Latin America.

I heard a rumour that you can get Marmite at the Walmart, but sadly I didn't find that out until I was on the other side of Mexico. I wish I'd seen it. That would have made my day.


The best thing I did in Playa del Carmen was a daytrip to Akumal with some other backpackers. This beach is famous for being able to snorkel with turtles. You can just jump in one of the colectivos that go down the freeway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Easy peasy.

Like all the Caribbean beaches in Mexico, this one is stunning.


How fun does this look? It's the Little Mermaids!

Akumal is beautiful. One of the nicest beaches I've ever been too. Plus one guy had a GoPro (want!) and shared his photos.


We saw some massive schools of fish too. Literally thousands of them swimming around you. Awesome.

I LOVED this day. Turtles are so amazing and beautiful. And they were really easy to find since they pretty much spend all day eating grass off the bottom.


After a somewhat disappointing experience in Playa del Carmen, I headed south to Tulum. This place is more expensive. It has lots of boutique hotels, yoga, day spas, vegetarian food, etc. It therefore attracts a different crowd to the 19 year old backpacker market. That said, there are still a number of hostels so you can stay for a reasonable price. I stayed at one half way between the town and beach, then rented this shit bike (which all Mexicans seem to ride). They are like kids' bikes since they have no gears and you peddle backwards for the brake. I can't tell you how many times I nearly stacked it. Still, it's better than walking since everywhere seems to be about 5km away.

I loved Tulum. I ended up spending about a week there doing yoga everyday at this awesome yoga shala (unlimited classes for a week for US$50), eating delicious vegan food at various veggie restaurants around the place and going to the beach. It was perfect. A holiday from my holiday if you will.

Massage on the beach. This woman has magic hands. If you want to find her she is outside La Vita Bella hotel, up near the ruins. US$40 for an hour.

At the hostel I met Deborah from Switzerland. She had rented a car, which was nice since I hadn't been in a private vehicle since I left Australia basically. We went to the Tulum ruins one morning.

Someone I'd met along the way gave me the handy tip of wearing togs to the ruins so you can go in the water and take photos.

And seriously, who wouldn't want to go in this water?

We'd both seen quite a few ruins at this point, so we were more interested in all the iguanas. They were everywhere.

Plus the water is SO beautiful, we really wanted to get to the beach.

After the ruins, we drove up to Xcacel a beach, which is a beautiful, lesser known tourist beach so there was hardly anyone there. The guy wanted us to make a donation before he’d move the barrier to let us past. First it was like M$20 for cleaning the toilets. Then we said we don’t want to use the toilets. So then it was like M$10 or M$5. We knew we were getting ripped off so we paid M$5 to get him to open the barrier. Of course we watched a local car come in and they paid nothing.

I decided to try some sexy shots. Most of them are just me copping a wave in the face (not sexy) but this one turned out quite well I think.

There is a free cenote about five minutes walk from the beach. Lots of fish.

We tried to go snorkelling at Xcacel but there was nothing to see (except in the cenote) so we headed to Akumul since Deborah hadn't been before. No GoPro this time :( but we saw stingrays as well as loads of turtles.

Then our day took a turn for the worse.

We got back to the car and it had been broken into. I had about $20 worth of pesos in the glovebox (which they didn't open) but Deborah had all her stuff in the car. She had left her day bag on seat like a beacon to criminals. Thankfully her passport was with her and her money and my money were in the glovebox.

However, they took her day bag, which she was really upset about since it had all her holiday memories in it. Then they'd pulled her backpack from the boot into the backseat and went though it. Interestingly they'd left her laptop but took her bras. WTF?

Anyway, she went and got the police while I stayed with the car. She comes back with two cops who start asking questions and taking notes. The one goes into the bushes, with his machine gun to see if he can find her bag. He didn't find it but it was quite a sight watching him. Machine guns seem excessive for a smash and grab.

After that's done we go back to the hostel and she rings her dad, who's a cop in Zurich. His first question is why did you leave your bag on the back seat? Good question. Then some German/ French/ Mexican guys living at the hostel at the moment helped her get the official police report for insurance and deal with Hertz since they could speak Spanish and German. See, not all hostels are terrible if you're a hater.

The next day Deborah left and I rode my shit bike up to to Gran Cenote, which is about 3km away. Gran Cenote is awesome, the best one I went to. As the name suggests, it's huge. Really nice to swim and snorkel in. You can dive in it too if that's your thing.

This cenote has lots of fish, bats, small birds and small turtles living in it. Most of the turtles were sunning themselves. 

I thought this was weird. Although it could come in handy if you've got a bunch of small kids that all need a wee at the same time.

And I'll end on that. Like I said, I loved Tulum. It's definitely one of my favourite places and I highly, highly recommend it if you're looking for a relaxing Caribbean beach holiday.

Next stop: The jungle ruins of Palenque!